What Would Borges Say About This?

Cool staircase made out of a [personal]  library.    And another link, in case you  missed the Borges reference.

Found via BoingBoing.   God I love that blog.

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National Film Board of Canada Has a Twitter Account

From the Myths On My Shoulders blog, the National Film Board of Canada has opened a Twitter account.

I’m a big advocate at watching what other industries do with services to see what might work for libraries.   While in its infancy, I am pretty interested to see what the Film Board will use the account for.   There may be plenty we can learn from these innovative folks.

Tell me what you think. . .

We are launched in beta with a new website over the holiday on January 17, 2008 and I would really appreciate your feedback. Your information will be really valuable to me because we are already looking at a review of the website just as fast as we launch it. True to principle, we may never get out of beta.

Untrue to principle, at least for the short term, there are no RSS feeds yet. They will be coming I promise — it’s just that there are some minor tweaks that need to happen and folks are doing vacations right now. Look out for them on the left hand side of the page, beneath the programs though.

I’d would also really like it if people could do a test using the following:

1. A mac

2. A screen reader or other assistive technology.

3. Non-Firefox or IE browsers.

4. Handheld browsers, especially the iPhone.

As any web designer knows, it’s really hard and expensive to cover every single base out there. We are using web standards, so most things should be fairly operable, but you can only be sure if you actually have a system in front of you.

Forget Web 2.0, I Bring You. . . the Semantic Web!

At the CLA Emerging Technologies Interest Group Pre-Conference, Mark Leggott presented something he titled “Library 2.0: Threads in the Tapestry.” If you have ever seen or heard Mark talk, you would know that he appears to enjoy using metaphors to organize his talks. This time it was the “Lady and Unicorn” tapestry that covers the six senses.

The theme of the day was the next phase of Library 2.0, namely what is being called “the Semantic Web” or “Web 3.0.” The wikipedia article on the semantic web is quite a bit convoluted, but the main premise is a web that not only contains great content, but also stores content that can be understood and/or processed by machines in ways that are meaningful to humans.

Even more specifically, semantic web products mine the data of already existing social softwares and uses that data to draw links and connections to other articles. Take, for instance, Freebase which is looking to provide rich information experiences by mashing up the wikipedia database with detailed metadata and a variety of other services. The result being that, if you search for James Cameron (say) you may be able to capture the links through which that person is known, say the movies he made, the people he is related to, restaurants he’s been said to favor, people who have criticized his works and so on. The result is a rich data experience where the web basically predicts the other things which may interest or entice you.

To consider the extent to which the semantic web can go for libraries, consider the following three (relatively) new technologies:

  1. Micropaper — visual output devices (ie. monitors) that have the size and flexibility of paper.
  2. The Surface Computer — a multi-touch interface that could basically turn the mouse into moose.   I discussed other possibilities for this technology before.
  3. Photosynth —
    and there’s more to be found in the TED talks presentation/demo.

So imagine this. A Micropaper monitor that uses surface computer technology for interfacing. Right there, you have paper that can be interfaced in ways that are very similar to a book — and then some, because you could manipulate the text, zoom in and out, rotate the items and so on.

Then add photosynth. You could conceivable have your new “book” that can store entire volumes belonging to any author. You could have it go audio and highlight the words as they are being spoken.

But let’s go further. You could have a scientific article with a footnote that is actually the entire cited article with the quoted text highlighted. That means you can check for context in ways never heard of before!

Or how about reading the Hunchback of Notre Dame with detailed information about the history of Victor Hugo and a complete tour of the Cathedral sitting right there in your little paper-like monitor!

There’s alot about this technology that is both exciting and scary for libraries. It’s like I get my mind blown just about every day!

SurfaRSS? What is web design in a Surface-based Computer World?

Now that Microsoft has released a Surface based computer, I thought it was time that I thought about how people would actually use the thing. Sure the examples of moving pictures around and finger painting are kind of neat, but how does it get people to information?

Some of the things that immediately came to my mind have included:

  • AJAX or some derivative will rule because people will want to be able to move things around.
  • One improvement will have to be the ability to [easily] rotate & resize objects & pan around a page.
  • Thoughts about multiple-user access — how do you create web/internet spaces that multiple people will use?

The actual implications of a surface-based design are interesting, but here is my addition to the conversation. What about a kind of RSS-feed “lazy susan”? Here is a quick draft of a possible design.
SurfaRSS

So, you have that coffee table going on and you are reading the news with your friends. You all want to share the same news. So, here is a way to do it with the new interface. Maybe you would want to combine this with my Ajax-based federated search tool. So you search on one topic and it covers a whole lot of news that a bunch folks can go through and search, discover or whatever with your friends on the topic!

This sounds like a great opportunity for libraries if there ever was one. John Blyberg seems to agree. I think libraries should start imagining right now what the future of public internet access will look like in the next 5 years.

A Conversation with a Friend

The best conversations I have, always seem to happen in North End Halifax when I go to visit my old roommate, best man and great friend, Greg. Greg is an artist in many ways. He’s a musician, an architect, a visual artist, a singer, has an amazing back-yard garden, is a great cook, and always hosts the best parties in town. This time he was describing what he saw as a weakness in the current world climate.

“There are no saints, anymore,” He said. “There’s no one out there that makes me think he or she is going to capture the world’s imagination for the next 40 years.” “There are no Madonnas, Elton Johns or Beatles out there right now. There is a lot of talent, but no one with the attention span to go out there and bring something new to the world.” There was more, alluding to the democratization of art and the primacy of the amateur in the Web 2.0 world.

I should also say that Greg was not complaining or lamenting. He was merely making an observation. Also, I should that that, while Greg is older than I am and I am no spring-chicken, Greg is onto the music world in ways that most 16-year-olds are not. Greg is the first to notice the latest, hippest pop artist coming out. He is a Maven in that world and his view should be looked upon as more than just a curmudgeon wishing for the good ole days. He also wasn’t saying that YouTube and other art-sharing sites suck. His view probably is not that the products on these sites suck, but that people are going online because the products in the mainstream media suck.

It seems to me that the future may be pretty uninspiring for artists if we continue to go down the train we are going.   While the internet world is full of people who are willing to do crazy things, the desire to get your project up first is really killing a sense of, well, religion about our culture.

It was a good conversation and an interesting view coming from a very smart person.